(This editorial was printed in the Thomasville Times 24 January 1980).
Remember the somewhat cynical but ,nevertheless, factual statement that it's the victor who writes the history of any movement? As a result, the finished product may reflect quite a different story from the facts. Such, unfortunately, is the experience of that sad struggle in our nation's history known as the War Between the States. Two birthdays in this latter half of the month help to highlight that situation. I refer to those giants of military strategy ? Robert E. Lee and Thomas Jonathan Jackson. Men whose names would be emblazoned on the pages of our national epic had their memory not been clouded by the misconceptions surrounding their cause.
Because of clever propaganda the notion has been perpetuated that the North was fighting some sort of holy war to free those poor, mistreated slaves held in thraldom in the South. And that the sole purpose of the South's sacrifices and struggles was to hold on to those human chattles. No doubt the question of slavery ? or the right to own slaves ? was one of the issues. But only one! Actually, you could say that the causes behind that war were inherent from the very nature of the North and the South.
From the very beginning of our nation's existence, the two sections were uncongenial and suspicious. In those days immediately following the surrender of Cornwallis, Patrick Henry argued and pleaded vehemently and vociferously for his own Virginia and the other Souther Colonies not to become part of the new Union being formed. For it was clear even then that the two sections had different interests which were not compatible. The South was agricultural, the North industrial. And as the new nation began to grow stronger, the more populated North began to dominate the Congress so that She could ram through protective tariffs which were aimed at making the South dependent on Her for every manufacturing item. In fact, those tariffs enriched the North at the expense of the South.
But because the South could continue to prosper on her agriculture and become a center of culture and have a delightful life style, self-appointed critics in the North began a "hate campaign" against the South. And as their vehicle, they chose the institution of slavery. An institution which, by the way, was already beginning to die a slow death in the South because it was becoming less and less feasible and profitable.
When Abraham Lincoln issued his well-publicized Emancipation Proclamation, he was announcing freedom for the slaves only in the Souther States where he had no influence except in those sections which were already overrun by Federal troops. The Proclamation did not apply to the North at all! Slaves were still owned in some of those sections for months after the end of the war!
But I have been sidetracked! As we pass the birthdays of those two men I mentioned earlier, I want to pay my tribute to both as outstanding Americans who fought for a cause in which they believed. And if I were forced to make a choice between the two, my vote as the greater would go to the man whose military tactics are still studied in the military academies of the world. The man who kept the enemy on the run with less than on-fifth of their manpower. One who bore every insult and defeat without any rancor or bitterness, and was beloved by all who knew him - the one and only "Marse" Robert E. Lee.